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What's Lurking in Your Pillow?

Updated: Feb 26


Have you ever struggled to get comfortable on a pillow that’s too hard, soft, full, flat, lumpy or well past its prime? As someone who’s very particular about my own pillow, I certainly have! A pillow can make the difference between a restful night’s sleep or tossing and turning and possibly waking up with neck and back pain.

Back, side and stomach sleepers may have very different needs and preferences. The right pillow for you is a magic combination of variables—composition, firmness, contour, coolness, etc.

Sleep experts recommend we replace our pillows every year or two, since flattened pillows can exert strain on your neck, shoulders and back—and because pillows harbor bacteria and dust mites from the accumulation of hair and body oils. Gross, right?

When the CertiPUR-US® program was first established, we only certified what in the industry is called “slabstock”polyurethane foam—that is foam that is manufactured in huge (like the size of a football field) buns and then cut for shipping and later further cut or fabricated as needed. Many pillows use foam made this way, but many are made with “molded” foam, which is when foam is poured into pre-made molds that are shaped to fit the end use—like pouring ice into an ice cube tray. Until 2017, you couldn’t buy a molded foam pillow that contained certified foam. The good news is that now you can. We’ve been certifying molded foam—often used in pillows—for the past two years. Just another reason to swap out that old pillow of yours.

Sleep comfort can be psychological as well as physical. You’ll sleep better knowing the foam in your pillow is certified. That means the foam was made without formaldehyde; ozone depleters; PBDEs, TDCPP or TCEP (“tris”) flame retardants; mercury, lead and other heavy metals; or phthalates regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It also means the foam has low VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million).

If you’re like me, you probably find it hard to remember when you bought the pillow you’re sleeping on. Here’s a tip: When you purchase a new one, use a permanent marker to put the purchase date on one of the labels.


By Helen Sullivan|August 29, 2019


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